Review: Audi A3 e-tron (2014)
Plug in hybrid. Generally very refined. Quick and loses nothing of the conventional A3 understated class. Fuel-free mileage potential is alluring.
Ride quality and tyre noise issues are thorns in its side. Loss of some boot space may be a problem for some. Real world running costs could be substantial with high daily mileage.
Audi A3 e-tron (2014): At A Glance
- Insurance Group 29
- On average it achieves 73% of the official MPG figure
The Audi A3 e-tron of 2014 is Audi's first plug-in hybrid released to the UK market.
The Audi A3 sits at the top of the premium hatchback tree, owing largely to its very effective blend of perceived build quality, low running costs, useful practicality and gimmick-free styling.
The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron builds on this base to produce a car with all that, plus the sort of claimed fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures that were the stuff of Anita Roddick’s fantasies not too long ago. That concoction, thinks Audi, makes the e-tron a very edible cake in a very niche market: there were only around 5000 cars of this type sold in 2013.
‘Cars of this type’ are plug-in petrol-electric hybrids not self-charging hybrids like the Lexus CT200h. Their post plug-in electric range is usually between 20 and 30 miles, whereas the electric range of a self charging hybrid is usually less than a mile and only in very specific low speed circumstances. In theory, as long as he also kept the 12v battery charges as well as the hybrid battery, a low mileage used would, in theory, never tap into its fuel tank.
It’s the same setup found in the Volkswagen Golf GTE, though in that application it’s very much an aid to eco-conscious performance, whereas Audi sees the A3 e-tron as a refined and futuristic diesel-killer.
A look at the figures makes it clear why Audi feels that way - 37g/km CO2 and 176.6mpg claimed average fuel consumption. And it has 204PS channelled through a six-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox, so it can hit 62mph from nought in 7.6 seconds. That’s what Audi calls progress.
And because it’s an electric car, it qualifies for the government’s £5000 electric mobility grant – which is a good job, because the list price for this fancy hatchback is just shy of £35,000. You won’t pay annual VED for your digital tax disc, at least, so there’s a few bob saved.
Unlike the rest of the Audi A3 range, the e-tron is only available as a Sportback and with one trim level. As befits the price, however, it dishes up a lot of equipment, including 17-inch alloy wheels, MMI HDD-based navigation with seven-inch touch screen, 10GB flash music storage, DAB radio, two-zone climate control, front sports seats, LED headlights, rear LED lights and plenty more.
What does a Audi A3 e-tron (2014) cost?
Audi A3 e-tron (2014): What's It Like Inside?
We’ve said it before, but the Audi A3 has one of the best car interiors on sale today, punching way above its class weight. It’s the essence of solid simplicity with a clean, intuitive layout fashioned from plastics so dense that they almost stop being quantifiably plastic and become something else.
Audi’s MMI system, which comes as standard, is a joy to use. Intuitively designed, it features clear shortcut and back buttons, plus the rotary control dial can be used as a track pad to write navigation instructions – albeit with the left hand, which for the majority will mean scrawly letters that the car’s brain will often misinterpret.
It’s also ergonomically spectacular – if ergonomics can ever be that – in the sense that it’s built with driving position adjustment enough for both extremes of the adult size spectrum to get truly comfortable.
That’s all old news, really. The real story of the e-tron is how much of the A3 Sportback’s inherent practicality is compromised by packaging up the hybrid drivetrain?
The answer is ‘a little’. Certainly enough for a conventional A3 Sportback owner to notice, but far from taking the car into the realms of being compromised. The battery is under the rear seat and while there’s no affect on rear leg or headroom, boot capacity suffers. The 280-litre boot loses 100 litres to that of any other A3 Sportback and its maximum (rear bench down) capacity has lost the same amount, now at 1120 litres.
The A3 e-tron is only available as a Sportback – there’s no three-door version. As with every other model in the range, the e-tron benefits from a loading floor that can sit flush with the loading lip, and the rear bench folds flat, making it a convenient companion when on any given day you’re transporting bulky stuff.
Despite it being possible to run an A3 e-tron without every plugging it in, the running cost benefits will be best felt when it is. Fast charging the battery from flat takes just over two hours, while a conventional household power supply will almost double that time to three hours and 45 minutes. Neatly, the charging socket is housed under the Audi four rings on the grille.
Child seats that fit a Audi A3 e-tron (2014)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Audi A3 e-tron (2014) like to drive?
- Readers report Real MPG to be between 85–131 mpg
A relatively new and very complicated drivetrain powers the A3 Sportback e-tron – but you wouldn’t know it. Predictably, Audi has dampened the whole thing down to impeccably engineered, silent perfection.
The plug-in hybrid setup has four driving modes, each altering in some way the relationship between the 75KW (102PS) electric motor and the 150PS 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine. EV mode puts the electric motor in charge by itself, capable of getting the car up to 31 miles at up to 80mph.
That’s a lot of ‘up to’, and although the real electric-only range is probably nearer the low-to-mid twenties, the e-tron can certainly be driven hard and fast using only its battery. The car’s 4.9 second 0-37mph time in electric mode tells you how nippy it feels.
The e-tron has a Sport mode that pairs petrol and electricity in harmony, unleashing that 204PS peak power figure and, more importantly, 330Nm peak torque. In this mode, the e-tron has serious mid-range punch – the sort of punch that Volkswagen believes puts this drivetrain into GTI territory.
The A3 never feels anywhere near being a hot hatch, however. It’s quick, yes, but it also has an unyielding ride quality – the sort of which a Honda Civic Type-R driver might feel at home with, but it’s not what you’d expect of a modern Audi. It’s just annoyingly stiff.
Let’s not be too harsh - this quality is the scourge of this particular drivetrain in general because the heavy rear-mounted battery necessitates stiffening up the suspension – but there’s no doubt that the A3 e-tron is unacceptably jiggly at times. This is one of two areas that Audi’s engineers couldn’t quite iron out.
The other is amplified tyre noise in EV mode, though again this is a problem with most of these cars. In every other way, this A3 is as easy and refined as you’d expect a top-end hatchback to be.
Its remaining two modes actively charge the battery, so you get more off-throttle engine braking while all that escaping energy is scavenged and there’s another that retains the battery’s charge. The e-tron switches between each of these imperceptibly. The only time the car ever feels flat is when the battery itself is flat and thus not available to assist the petrol motor. When this happens, there’s a natural but very obvious drop in performance on full throttle.
The other thing to note is that, unless your life operates within the boundaries of the electric car driver utopia (in which you work four miles from your house, have an external fast charging socket and never go anywhere else), the e-tron’s claimed combined fuel figure is a complete fallacy.
Once you start dipping into that 40-litre fuel tank it sinks with enthusiasm, the result of a petrol motor hauling around all that complicated drivetrain - an A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI weighs 1235kg while the e-tron weighs 1540kg, about the additional weight of a whole family of four. Who all like chips.
|1.4 TFSI e-tron||177 mpg||7.6 s||37 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Audi A3 e-tron (2014)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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